Thabane plots fight-back

Thabane plots fight-back

MASERU – A VETERAN of Basotho politics and a survivor of the country’s often treacherous political terrain, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, is rolling his sleeves for yet another fight.
This is the fight that could derail his quest to rule until he is close to 90.
But will he survive?
The signs are ominous, but who can rule out Cyclone Tom?

He returned from exile in South Africa in February 2017 and months later, thousands of All Basotho Convention (ABC) party members drowned the Setsoto Stadium in their yellow colours as Thabane was inaugurated as Prime Minister – heralding the return of a man who had fled the country in 2015 in fear of his life.
Thabane says he plans on staying on as Prime Minister until 2027.
But, at 80, many believe he is well into his twilight and, given the tumult in his party, he may fade away rather than go in a blaze of glory.

At a rally in Mosalemane on Sunday, gone were the huge numbers that some of his rallies were known for – signaling the troubled times that could lie ahead as a rival faction energetically plots against him.
A paltry but enthusiastic crowd occupied the Mosalemane football ground where praises for Thabane were sung.
And Thabane, who had just addressed thousands of people in Likhoele a week earlier, did not hide his worries.
His voice and body language showed signs of irritation.

Looking at the reduced size of his following at his third rally to counter his internal party rivals last Sunday in Mosalemane constituency, Thabane asked where others were.
“I know that the ABC has a large following. Now, where are others?” he asked rhetorically, adding that they had been “separated by the national executive committee elections”.
He said he knew they were not enough, dangling his age as a plus.
“At my age I am working for oneness and truth,” he said.

In a sign of the widening gulf in the party, Thabane’s nemesis, Professor Nqosa Mahao, whose election as party deputy in February is being fiercely challenged in the High Court, had held his own rally in the same constituency a week earlier.
There are two major factions in the ABC.
There is the pro-Mahao faction called Likatana (rags after Thabane derogatively called Mahao a rag blown by the wind).
Thabane’s followers are called Bo-Isaiah (after the First Lady ’Ma-Isaiah).

Both factions have used public gatherings to gauge their support by holding parallel rallies every weekend lately.
Thabane blamed the poor attendance at his rally on the Likatana faction.
“It is abnormal that when the leader holds a rally, there are other constituencies that hold parallel rallies,” he said, suggesting that other ABC members who could have attended his gathering opted to go to the Likatana’s.
Thabane repeatedly said there is no way the leader could hold a rally and the constituencies also hold their own.
He said that must come to an abrupt end as it derails the party.

Thabane said it is against his party’s rules that when he holds rallies as the leader, constituencies also hold their own.
He said the war in the ABC was destroying the party, while also having a direct bearing on the stability of the government and economic growth as party leaders spend more time on factionalism than on developmental issues.
As for his own gatherings, Thabane said he has held the rallies thrice to build and unite the party.
Leading the nation, he said, is not “like a walk in the park”.
“I love all ABC members without discriminating against them. To lead the nation is a challenge itself especially in big parties like ABC,” he said.

Although visibly angered by the dispute with Mahao’s faction, Thabane said he is ready for the roundtable to iron out issues.
He said he would compromise and be patient for the sake of the ABC because “the party is my wound”.
“When the time of God comes we will find peace and stability,” he said.
It was a speech by a man determined to hang on and cannot wait for the turbulence to end.
The Mahao challenge is the latest in a life of political struggles for Thabane.
He has survived before, sometimes by changing parties and has been on the local political scene for far too long to start writing his political epitaph despite the tough times he is facing.

Thabane has served both military and civilian regimes, surviving purge after purge.
Before Lesotho’s second Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan was overthrown by the military in 1986, Thabane served as his Principal Secretary for Health.
Despite the purge, Thabane found a place in the military regime, working as Foreign Affairs Minister under Major General Justin Lekhanya from 1990 to 1991.
He ended up as a Cabinet minister in Pakalitha Mosisili’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government before leaving to form the ABC in 2006.

In 2012, Thabane headed the country’s first coalition government but was forced into exile in 2014 after soldiers stormed the State House and police stations in Maseru.
He came back under SADC guard only to lose power to Mosisili in a 2015 snap election, after which he skipped the country again to South Africa saying his life was in danger.
However, Lesotho had not heard the last of him.
In February 2017, he returned to Lesotho.
In June of that year he was Prime Minister again.

“Politics is a risky business,” he said before his return, citing alleged threats on his life.
Slightly more than two years on, he is in risky territory again, this time against a plot by some of his own.
And, at 80, it is sink or swim.
It seems Thabane is not the one to throw in the towel in defeat.
At this time when his party is at the brink of a major split in its history, he has adjourned parliament indefinitely in what some say could lead to him advising King Letsie III to prorogue it.

Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, who is also Leader of Parliament, stood on motion to adjourn it sine die on Monday.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Teboho Lehloenya said according to standing order 18 the house is closed sine die.
“We do not need to do anything therefore we wish all members a happy break including His Majesty, Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Leader of Opposition and journalists,” Lehloenya said.
“We know reforms are approaching and we encourage members to go to their respective constituencies,” he added.
This motion comes at a time when the chairman of the embattled ABC incoming committee, the Mosalemane MP Tsoinyane Rapapa, has filed a motion seeking to clip the Prime Minister’s powers to advice the King to dissolve Parliament when faced with a no-confidence motion in Parliament.

Had Parliament not adjourned indefinitely the MPs would vote on the motion and, according to some observers, Thabane stood no chance to win the vote.
A retired National University of Lesotho (NUL) dean of the faculty of humanities, and political scientist Professor Kopano Makoa, said the current ABC problems are Thabane’s own creation.
Makoa said if Thabane wants stability in his party and in the government he must let go of the old committee and work harmoniously with the incoming one.

Makoa also said if Thabane and his old committee still maintain their attitude there is no amicable solution to be reached.
“The problem in the All Basotho Convention is Thabane and his old executive committee,” he said.
He said Thabane is all out trying to fight the system of his party.
“That stuck committee belongs to Thabane so it is him who does not want to step down because according to the constitution Thabane is the executive committee himself as a leader,” Makoa said.
He said on the issue of the adjourned parliament indefinitely “there were no dissenting voices, meaning everyone was satisfied”.
He also said according to him he does not think it is a signal that the government is falling as yet.

He said the government can only fall if members can pass a vote of no confidence, “or when his party is separating like now, it is threatening stability of the party and democracy at large,” he said.
He said Thabane is now viewed as a person who refuses to accept democratic rule.
“He has now enraged even donors, yes there are signs that his government is shaking,” he said.
He said a threat is that Thabane’s party is splitting, “that will cause problems because election funds are lacking,” he said.

Nkheli Liphoto


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